Mon, 19 Sep 2005

Nassau bid to tighten laws targeting sex offenders

Nassau bid to tighten laws targeting sex offenders
September 19, 2005

Democratic legislators in Nassau this morning intend to propose a new law that would bar convicted sex offenders registered under Megan’s Law from establishing a residence within 600 feet of schools or playgrounds.
The proposal, an extension of the state Sex Offender Registration Act, which requires offenders to register on a database that tracks their whereabouts, is sponsored by Legis. Kevan Abrahams (D-Hempstead).
"I noticed the influx of sexual offenders that were living in my district," Abrahams said. "It prompted me to [sponsor the proposal], because our children will definitely be impacted."
Under Megan’s Law, sex offenders are listed in three levels based on their risk of reoffending. The new proposal would bar the most violent sex offenders -- those in Levels 2 and 3 -- from permanently or temporarily living within 600 feet of public or private schools or playgrounds where minors assemble. The new law would not bar Level 1 sex offenders from living within 600 feet of a school, although a similar proposal in Suffolk would bar Level 1 offenders.
Schools covered in the Nassau proposal would include elementary through high school. Violation of the proposed law would be considered a misdemeanor with a possible fine of up to $1,000.
Abrahams said the legislation, which has Democratic support, is the first of its kind for the county. A spokesman for the Republican minority said the party generally favors laws against sex offenders, but has yet to review Abrahams’ proposal. Nassau County Executive Thomas Suozzi declined to comment pending review of the legislation.
"We live in a more dense county and we also live in an area where we have more parks," Abrahams said, explaining his decision to keep the distance offenders could live near schools at 600 feet.
Abrahams also said he would set aside funding in the upcoming county budget that would allow police to enforce the law.
Suffolk County Legis. Jon Cooper (D-Lloyd Harbor) told Newsday that he intends late this month to introduce a similar bill that would prohibit all registered sex offenders from residing within a quarter-mile of elementary through high schools, playgrounds or day-care centers.
Opponents of such bills across the nation argue that it’s unconstitutional based on the amount of distance that sex offenders can reside. "I know there will be who say this is wrong," Abrahams said. "I’m protecting those that are already hurt."

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